The Legacy We Leave

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Do you think about your legacy?

Does it impact how you live today—in the here-and-now? How you treat others? Where you spend your time? What your priorities are?

I’ve been thinking about mine lately. For my entire working career I’ve been counseling, mentoring, and studying those in the Millennial generation. And the consistent cry for help or advice they seek, whether with their parents, friends, significant others, or employers, is relational in nature.

I can relate (pun intended). I was one of those guys who ventured blindly into the counseling field because I needed it. I soon realized I wasn’t alone. There’s an unprecedented relational bankruptcy in this generation. My passion quickly became helping Millennials relate better.

Then, 16 months ago, I had a son. And priorities naturally changed. I now spend more of my time, energy, and studies consumed with the nuances of raising an emotionally and relationally mature toddler than with the teens and twenty-somethings of the Millennial generation. While I’m learning to deal with diaper blow-outs, projectile throw-up, and temper tantrums, (I may or may not have taken my son’s pacifier from him and sucked on it myself a time or two), I’m seeing a trend with those seeking help.

The Trend

To explain this trend, I’ll use an analogy a good friend and successful businessman described to me. He tells me the Tylenol industry is bigger than the vitamin industry. That’s because in America—the land of feeling better—we wait until we have a headache to get relief. The same is true relationally. Most people wait until the relational “headache” is too intense before they begin seeking help.

As I reviewed my counseling and coaching clients through the last number of years, I began to see a pattern. It was the parent, not the teenager (Millennial), who called me for help, parents looking to “fix” their teenagers or the relationship they have with them (the headache). Some parents see the role they’ve played in the headache; others do not. But the result is obvious; they’re looking for Tylenol.

In the words of one millionaire dad I was working with, “Josh, I’d give anything just to have a relationship with my son again.”

Then, there are those looking for vitamins.

Guess who makes up the majority of consumers in this category today? Millennial parents. Of the 78 million Millennials in the United States, 31 million are now parents. And many, like myself, are trying to overcome their own relational brokenness to raise healthy kids, doing what they can to prevent the headache in the first place.

What in the iWorld is Really Going On?

As I survey the state of relational affairs in our culture, I believe there’s a current underlying philosophy that’s leading to this relational bankruptcy.

We’re all products of arguably the most individualistic culture in the history of the world. We live in a society today termed by Dale Kuehne as the iWorld, a society that believes “an expansion of individual rights will lead to increased happiness and fulfillment.”[i] Such a society prides itself on one value—feeling better.

Whether we admit it or not, everything we do, the people we spend time with, the things we spend our money on, what we give our time to, all of it is colored by the lens of this individualistic philosophy. We raise our kids through this lens. And our kids are experiencing the consequences.

I believe we’re facing two problems because of it:

  1. We’re raising a generation that’s relationally bankrupt (taught to feel better, not love better) and
  2. We’re blind to what’s going on.

Here’s a small snippet on recent outcome research of today’s generation. They are:

  • more narcissistic and self-centered[ii]
  • less empathetic[iii]
  • more disconnected and lonely[iv]
  • scoring lower on achievement scores[v]
  • displaying a poor work ethic[vi]
  • less able to reason (i.e. getting dumber)[vii]
  • more depressed[viii]
  • more anxious[ix]
  • more stressed[x]
  • more medicated[xi]

Some will argue with the data above. But the mere fact research outcomes are showing these to be true of a generation is cause for concern.

Secondly, we’re blind to what’s going on. Why? Because we’re products of a culture that believes an expansion of individual rights will lead to happiness and fulfillment. And since sacrifice and responsibility don’t always feel good, we tend to devalue them in an individualistic culture. Instead we value activities—and dare I say devices—that help us feel better.

It’s the effects of technology on my own marriage and how I parent that led me to studying this dynamic in our culture. The relational effects of technology are a major reason I’m shifting my paradigm. We’re blindly allowing culture to project its values into our homes, rather than passing on values we create in our homes.[xii]

I want to be part of a generation of parents who unapologetically teaches our kids not to feel better, but to love better. Kids who:

  • understand the difference between right and wrong
  • value hard work over laziness
  • take responsibility over passing blame
  • show self-control over haste and impulsivity
  • display empathy over self-centeredness and apathy
  • experience true intimacy over the false intimacy of social media and pornography
  • know ultimately that true joy comes from loving better, not feeling better.

To do so means we as parents must take our families by the helm and begin steering them in a direction that promotes such values. Without such intentionality, the culture will raise our kids for us.

The Legacy I Leave

I’m a husband and father who strives to live a fulfilling and joyful life by steering my family against the tide of culture. And I will do all I can to advocate on behalf of kids and parents to do the same, to help raise an emotionally and relationally healthy generation—one home at a time.

And I want to invite you along on this journey.

I believe if we unite on this one goal, we can all lead our homes and help one another in this noble cause.

From here on I’ll spend my time developing resources for parents who desire to lead their families well in the 21st century. I’ll be writing and speaking on topics related to raising kids in emotional safety—kids who also learn to love God and love others. And I will do so by combining scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide practical parenting strategies.

I’ll also be creating a virtual village in 2014 so we really can be on this journey together. More on that to come. You can join the journey now by following me on Twitter @joshuastraub, Facebook, or signing up for updates on the website.

This is a legacy worth building. I hope you’ll join me in this cause—and perhaps discover the legacy you’ll leave along the way.

_____________________________

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is a speaker, author, counselor, and life coach. Coauthor of God Attachment: Why You Believe, Act and Feel the Way You Do About God and The Quick Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers, Josh specializes as a relational bridge builder between the generations.  He enjoys combining scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide practical insight and inspiration for today’s families. He serves on the teaching team at Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, MO and is married to his favorite Canadian, Christi. Together, they are the proud parents of Landon. You can find Josh on Twitter @joshuastraub or on Facebook.


[i] Kuehne, D. (2009). Sex and iWorld: Rethinking relationship beyond an age of individualism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[ii] Twenge, J. & Campbell, W. K. (2010). The narcissism epidemic. New York: Free Press. More in-depth analysis on this epidemic can be found in J. Twenge’s research at http://twenge.socialpsychology.org/publications.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] (2010, 10). Loneliness and isolation by Jean M Twenge. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 10, 2010, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Loneliness-And-Isolation-By-Jean-m-433977.html

[v] Most recent results can be found at http://timss.bc.edu/. Here’s another recent analysis on the topic for further consideration http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/.

[vi] Pew Research. (2010, February 24). Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to change. Executive Summary. Retrieved from: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/02/24/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change/

[vii] Research on these aspects of technology’s effect on the brain can be found in two highly recommended books including: Small, G. & Vorgan, G. (2012). iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind.  William Marrow Publishing; and Carr, N. (2011). The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

[viii] Harris Interactive. (2012). Stress in America survey of 2,020 U.S. adults 18 and older for American Psychological Association. A good overview is offered at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/06/stress-psychology-millennials-depression/1878295/

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] U.S. Pharmacist. (2002). Attention-Deficit Disorder and the rise in methylphenidate use. U.S. Pharmacist Continuing Education. http://www.uspharmacist.com/ce/ahdh/lesson.cfm and Woodworth, Terrance. (2000, May 16). DEA Congressional Testimony before the Committee on Education and the Workforce: Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families.

[xii] Some of my insights here came from a recent article I ready by Sultan, A. (2014, January 13). Oppose culture with parenting. Retrieved from http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/13/3510841/oppose-culture-with-parenting.html